Choose your own adventure: Warriors have until noon to decide on trade
Trade in limbo, Curry out, and a game scheduled for tonight.
Things are getting weird for the Golden State Warriors. Also, they had previously been weird, too. But this latest saga is nuts, even by whatever passes for a low standard in such a weird season. After starting the season looking discombobulated and not good, the Warriors stripped away some of the outside paint and let the inner workings of this dynasty shine through. Only, that shine is starting to show the patina of age. The threads starting to show around the frayed edges of their superhero capes.
At time of writing, it is incredibly unclear what’s going to happen with the Gary Payton and James Wiseman trade.
In a way, it feels a bit fitting. Given the way this season has gone so far, of course the team’s one big trade deadline move went pear shaped. And of course, I’m still delusional enough to believe that it’s going to all work out anyways… somehow.
WHO: Golden State Warriors (28-27) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (25-31)
WHEN: Saturday, February 11th, 2023 // 5:30pm PDT
Choose your own adventure
I have no idea what’s up with tonight’s game. So instead, let’s explore all the ways that this Payton situation can pan out. The Warriors ruled it a failed physical yesterday, and now have to decide by noon today whether to go through with the deal or not.
No way out, but through
The injury to Gary Payton is serious. But this move sets a lot of things right in Golden State. In the end, it’s the Warriors that will make the final call whether or not to make everyone get back on the cycle of packing and unpacking like they worked at WKRP in Cincinnati (absolute banger of an opening song). So what if the Warriors said, “you know what? We’re keeping GP2.”
There’s precedent here for some kind of compensation that could head back to Golden State, but if I recall correctly, it was something like a second round pick that was assessed and transferred by the NBA many months later. Anyways, the point is that the Warriors could keep Payton.
He’d potentially return in time for the post season - presuming that these Warriors can drag their way out of a crowded middle class in a Western Conference that got tougher because of the trade deadline. But it’s not just about this season. This move would shave tens of millions off the team’s bill, and there’s always next year. Plus, there’s a non-zero amount of meaningful good will that the Warriors could generate for one of the team’s most beloved role players.
Not sending this guy back to Portland on purpose is a win, in and of itself.
Finally, Wiseman was a sunk cost, and the vibe around the situation has grown weirder and weirder as both sides continue to eyeball each other looking for who to blame. It’s everyone’s and no one’s fault, but hey, at least we all made it through with some stories to tell!
But given the proven excellence and track record of success within Kerr’s system, there’s a higher than normal level of uncertainty I’m willing to live with if the end state outcome is Payton back on this Warriors roster.
Declare: “Takesies backsies!”
As reported by The Athletic (among others), he “could miss two-to-three months after a core muscle issue showed up in his physical on Friday morning.” The playoffs start on April 15th - the regular season ends on the ninth. So that lands Payton back at a problematic time.
But importantly (if we can manage to put emotions aside), this is a pretty concerning problem for a player to develop. It was a core injury that ended the career of Andris Biedrins promising young career (seriously, look at his rate stats before and after the injury) and it doesn’t necessarily get better for Payton… which might explain why he was reportedly playing all hopped up on heavy anti-inflammatories. But I hesitate to conjecture too much here. The point is that Payton was out in November of 2021 with what is listed as a hernia recovery, then another off-season procedure in July of last year to address a core muscle injury that caused him to miss most of this season. And it’s still not right.
That’s not great.
There’s also a nuclear option where the league comes in, judges Portland as at fault, and allows the teams involved in this four team transaction to break the rules and simply cut out the Payton-for-picks portion.
The final details of the trade haven’t been confirmed yet (which is sort of why we are here now) so the details are a little cloudy. But the general framework went something like this:
The Detroit Pistons send forward Saddiq Bey to Atlanta and acquire James Wiseman.
The Warriors, who were receiving five second-round picks and Kevin Knox, redirected them to Portland in exchange for Payton.
But you can see how the order of operations is tricky. Do the Warriors get Knox and the picks? Or is it just Bey for Wiseman?
Welcoming Wiseman back would be bad. But what if they got Knox or Bey? Probably not the worst possible outcome. But it does leave the team right back where they started in a slightly different way. But if you are going to take a flyer on a young project, then maybe a smidge of value could be obtained from some altered version of the proposed multi team trade.
Heh, just kidding. Come here, Jimmy!
Wiseman, for his part, isn’t going to want to come back either. But riding the pine for millions of dollars doesn’t sound all that bad, right? Maybe Wiseman can crack back into the rotation. Or at least salvage some vestige of value.
The Warriors’ highest pick in a long time committed the ultimate workplace sin: over promised and under delivered. The fact that this came out like this tells us a lot about Wiseman’s current value - a messy four team, four player trade that ends up swinging the Warriors a hurt player that his old team didn’t want. Sure Golden State walked away from the deal table thinking they got something they wanted, but if you traded Wiseman because of sunk cost principles, then you’d just as like take whatever else you could get in the offseason. Wiseman’s expiring contract should have some impact just as ballast. Plus, man… he’s shown those flashes…
If the value really is low and the momentum is pointing Wiseman squarely away from the Warriors, the team could just ship him down to the G League. Maybe he develops, maybe not, but also: maybe he catches another team’s eye.
It’s going to be world class weird. Like someone accidentally shouting out the wrong person’s name during a happy birthday song levels of judgy eyeball and open stares. Out of all of the options, this is probably the least desirable for the Warriors, Wiseman, and Payton. But hey, sometimes you’ve got to choose violence.
Time to choose
Well? Which will you do? There are three distinct paths ahead, which do you choose?